Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Tarot Court: The King of Swords


The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts, therefore guard accordingly; and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue, and reasonable nature. -Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Roman Emperor, A.D. 161-180 (121 AD - 180 AD)

I have had a hard time learning to appreciate the King of Swords. For a long time whenever he made an appearance in a tarot reading, I usually scowled and quietly muttered some random epithet to his face. The seething hatred I felt for this character was quite strong and as I worked through trying to understand my visceral reaction to him, I learned quite a lot about both myself and this guy, and through it all began to appreciate his aspects or at least accept them. Tarot can help us explore our own issues this way, the things buried inside: attitudes, predjudices, old wounds, our dark or shadow self. One kind of expects that with a card like The Devil or another Major Arcana archetype, but to have this reaction to a court card surprised me. I'm telling you, I absolutely despised this guy and felt like ripping the card in two and tossing it from my decks. I mean, look, doesn't the King of Swords from the DruidCraft deck look a lot like Mr. Spock, the half-Vulcan, half-human whose appeal to logic in the series Star Trek was often infuriating, especially to the more emotional Dr. McCoy?

The King of Swords is a man completely and utterly ruled by reason and logic. He gives no quarter to emotional sway unless the emotions are in full accord with that same reason and logic. His mind is supreme and his decisions just, but they do not leave room for passion, emotion, and instinct. All must conform to the processes of what is true and not what could be. He refuses to muddy the process with hopes and wishes and least of all, faith. This is not a man who acts on a hunch or relies on gut feelings. If it isn't able to be logically and factually proven, it doesn't exist. Which isn't to say he doesn't entertain theories. Oh, yes, theories are the fodder that keeps the wheels of his ever-active mind turning. But theories must be grounded firmly in what is known and tested to prove themselves. And don't even think about getting into a debate or argument with this guy. He will chop up your ass and hand it back to you on a platter and politely ask, "Is there anything else you'd like to know?"

Who can abide such a man? Not me. For the men I have known whose minds were of such a bent and whose hearts seemed cold and untouchable were those I found very dangerous, indeed. For without the warmth and yes, illogic, of emotions and without leaning into faith, I could see nothing in the King of Swords but a souless, robotic borg clothed in flesh. I found him cruel and unbending, at first. The books said he makes a fine lawyer and business advisor, but then again there is a reason for all those lawyer jokes. You know, like this one (with apologies to my lawyer friends) :

The devil visited a lawyer's office and made him an offer. "I can arrange some things for you, " the devil said. "I'll increase your income five-fold. Your partners will love you; your clients will respect you; you'll have four months of vacation each year and live to be a hundred. All I require in return is that your wife's soul, your children's souls, and their children's souls rot in hell for eternity. The lawyer thought for a moment. "What's the catch?" he asked.

His elemental nature as a King is air, the realm of thoughts, communication, action, and conflict. His suit element, swords, is also of the element air, so he is "air of air" (for chrissakes!) which gives us the qualities of someone of such a keen mind that, while he is human and does in fact possess emotion and passion, finds little use for them and is uncomfortable in that realm. Like his Queen, he understands human nature very well and can use his knowledge to his own ends. His primary tool is language, and if it serves his purpose to talk about emotions and use his words to sway someone else's emotions, he will do so. Just don't make the mistake that he can be swayed in a similar fashion. He won't budge.

So what was it about him that prevented the ravaging of my tarot decks and the elimination of this irksome character? His ethics. He does not lie. He communicates the truth and holds to the highest of moral codes. Any moral code worth living by does in fact love mercy and can see the illogic of always following through on pure reason and logic when it works against the wholeness and completeness of life. This king understands that just because something "works" doesn't mean it's always to one's benefit or the benefit of others. It's not really compassion that comes into play for him, but the ability to see the end result of actions. While the actions might make sense, if they don't yield the result you are after, they are not useful. It was this quality that softened my opinion of him and saved him from being spat on every time he appeared in my readings. I don't see him as a cruel, unbending tyrant anymore. Instead, I often appreciate his viewpoint as it can cut through the confusion created by mixed emotions and riotous passions. One's heart can indeed lead one astray at times and just as important as it is to "follow your bliss" one has to balance that with what is reasonable if one is to succeed on that blissful journey. When he appears in your readings, he urges you to calmly and rationally think through your situation, to tell the truth, speak eloquently, be reasonable and for God's sake, figure it out the best you can beforehand. You might save yourself some embarrassment in the end.

DruidCraft Tarot By Stephanie Carr-Gomm & Philip Carr-Gomm & Will Worthington Published by Connections 2004
The Fey Tarot Written by Riccardo Minetti, Artwork by Mara Aghem Published by Lo Scarabeo and distributed by Llewellyn Worldwide



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